“It’s a huge waste to not use your full potential,” Habib Khan believes. “It’s kind of criminal—kind of a sin.” In the past two years, Khan has empowered over 500 members of the BU community to reach and extend their potential through the student organization he founded, Global App Initiative (GAI). Global App Initiative is a student group that makes apps for nonprofit organizations, which in turn helps these nonprofits fulfill their potential.
Khan and Vice-President Brian Nussbaum came up with the idea for GAI after attending a workshop sponsored by the Kern Family Foundation and brought in by Professor Jonathan Rosen in August 2012, where teams of students built mobile apps for five nonprofits in five days. “This was only meant to be a workshop,” he says. “But we just knew that this was something that the world needs.”
In its first year, GAI built four apps for four different nonprofits, and by the end of the academic year had 80 BU students involved. This year, GAI has grown exponentially by building an additional 13 apps for 13 nonprofits, and over 500 BU students have contributed to these projects. Organizations like Harlem Hospital, Peer Health Exchange, Students Helping Honduras, and more have been aided in their day-to-day procedures by mobile apps built by GAI.
But there’s more to GAI than apps. This group is about education, community, and growth. “We have two major entities here,” explains Khan. “We have students who may or may not know anything about app development. We have nonprofits with a need for software to help with their operations. And we bring the two together to create a symbiotic relationship between the students—who need experience—and nonprofits—who need mobile apps.” Among these organizations are a handful of BU-based nonprofits—like Feel Good BU, whose proceeds from grilled cheese sales at Warren Towers benefit CHOICE Humanitarian.
The most important part of Khan’s role as President and founder of GAI is in connecting people in meaningful ways. “I’m not an expert in development,” he admits, “but I like to talk to people and find people who are really good at stuff. I found people who are really good at app development in the BU community; I found Kevin Mannix, my Android lead, Timothy Chong, my iOS lead, and Calvin Chin, my design lead,” Khan says. He adds, “These people are so good at what they do. My job is to know these people. And for a lot of these people, it’s like, ‘Hey, can I make something a hospital can use? But I’m just a student! My work can really matter?’ And yes. Yes it can.”
Khan kept the growth of GAI internal, as all GAI volunteers are BU students. “That was a conscious decision because this is such an underutilized community. I looked to my left, to my right, and saw people whose potentials were not being reached,” he says. “Some people don’t have the outlets for their abilities, and I thought: let’s give them that outlet. Let’s put these people in positions where their talents are reaching millions. Because these nonprofits are bringing justice to the world, and it’s awesome that we can help them do that.”
As a graduating senior, Khan says that his role is to empower current and future GAI volunteers to reach their potential. “This is about longevity,” he explains. “We’re still going to grow.” Next year, GAI hopes to add chapters at other schools, but “BU will always be the best chapter,” Khan emphasizes. “They’ll look to BU, to the collaborative community we have here. BU will always be the absolute best.”
Khan’s talents as a leader have been noticed by GE, where he will be working next year. He is in the GE Edison Engineering Development Leadership Program, which will sponsor him to get a Master’s degree in Computer Science. “It trains you to be a technical leader, and that’s exactly what I want to be,” he says.
The success of Global App Initiative makes the case that he already is.
Habib thanks: The Kern Family Foundation, Professor Jonathan Rosen, Brian Nussbaum, Robert Crowder, Davis Borucki, Jane McClenathan, Santiago Beltran, Asaph Yuan, Veena Dali, Annie Lane, YC Lee, Kyle Mann, Olivia Deng, Nathaniel Michener, Darryl Johnson, Patrick Crawford, and all the nonprofits and people involved with Global App Initiative.
Written by Cecilia Weddell